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Grothendieckian Perspective

Reflections on

Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary

Mathematics

by

Fernando Zalamea

Translated from Spanish (2009) by Z. L. Fraser,

Falmouth and New York: Urbanomic/Sequence Press, 2012.

Giuseppe Longo

Centre Cavaills, Rpublique des Savoirs,

CNRS, Collge de France et Ecole Normale Suprieure, Paris,

and Department of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology,

Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.1

http://www.di.ens.fr/users/longo

1 This text was written during the authors visit in Nantes, hosted by the

stimulating interdisciplinary environment of the Institut dEtudes

Avances (http://www.iea-nantes.fr/), and it is dedicated to Alexander

Grothendieck, whose death occurred during the preparation of its last

draft.

2 The translator would like to thank Robin Mackay for his precious and

generous help in revising this translation.

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Speculations VI

Introduction

as it is belated. It is indeed surprising, if we give it a moments

thought, just how greatly behind schedule philosophical

reflection on contemporary mathematics lags, especially

considering the momentous changes that took place in the

second half of the twentieth century. Zalamea compares this

situation with that of the philosophy of physics: he mentions

DEspagnats work on quantum mechanics, but we could add

several others who, in the last few decades, have elaborated an

extremely timely philosophy of contemporary physics (see

for example Bitbol 2000; Bitbol et al. 2009). As was the case

in biology, philosophy since Kants crucial observations in

the Critique of Judgment, at least has often run ahead of life

sciences, exploring and opening up a space for reflections

that are not derived from or integrated with its contemporary

scientific practice. Some of these reflections are still very much

auspicious today. And indeed, some philosophers today are

saying something truly new about biology.

Often Zalamea points the finger at the hegemony of analytic

philosophy and the associated linguistic turn and the

associated foundationalist projects in mathematics, highlighting the limits of a thought that, by and large, remains

stuck to Hilberts program (1900-1920) and Gdels theorem

(1931) respectively an extremely important program and

an equally important (negative) result, certainly. However, we

should do well to consider that something important happened in the decades that followed, both in mathematics and

in the correlations between the foundations of mathematics

and physics, topics to which Zalamea dedicates several pages

of his book. The conceptual and technical frames invented

by Grothendieck are a fundamental part of these novelties.

At this juncture, I would like to introduce a first personal

consideration: for far too long philosophical reflection on

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

mathematics has, with only rare exceptions,3 remained within

the limits of the debate going From Frege to Gdel (as per

the title of a classic collection) a debate at best reaching the

statement of Gdels theorem, or indeed a simplified reduction of it which deprives it of its meaning. The meaning of a

theorem is also (but not only) to be found in its proof, but in

the case of Gdels, it is found only by looking closely to its

proof (see Longo 2010). Thus, with a limited range of references going from Euclid to, at best, the statement of Gdels

theorem, passing through Frege and Hilbert (often skimming over a great deal Riemann and Poincar being cases

in point), for far too long we have debated ontologies and

formalisms, thus moving, as Enriques had already foreseen in

1935, between the Scylla of ontologism and the Charybdis of

formalism, a kind of new scholasticism.4 I think, for example,

that even within Logic, the beautiful results of Normalization

in Impredicative Type Theory (see Girard, 1971, Girard et al.

1989), and of concrete Arithmetical incompleteness, as in the

Kruskal-Friedman Theorem (see Harrington and Simpson

1985) which allow for a breakout from this scholasticism

(see Longo 2011) or indeed the more recent progress in

Set Theory, have not yet received a sufficient and properly

philosophical attention.

Zalameas book is thematically vast. It is truly astounding

to behold the rich range of mathematical themes that are

touched upon, arguably including all of the most important

objects of contemporary exploration. I can only single out a

few of them, in an attempt to hint here to an epistemology

of new interfaces, and to emphasize, for my own account,

3 Among these exceptions, an excellent collection is Mancosu 2008.

4 If we refuse to look for the object of logic in the operations of thought

we open the door to this ontology which scientific philosophy must

to fight as the greatest nonsense. On the other hand, guarding oneself

from the Scylla of ontologism, one falls into the Charybdis of nominalism: how could an empty and tautological system of signs satisfy our

scientific reason? On both sides I see emerging the spectre of a new

scholastics. F. Enriques, Philosophie Scientifique, Actes du Congrs

International de Philosophie Scientifique, Paris, 1935, vol. I-VII.

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Speculations VI

the timeliness and epistemological relevance of the triadic

relation mathematics-physics-biology which, obviously, is

not the theme of this book.

Modes of Conceptualization, Categories, and Worldviews

6.5.1 Nowadays we may want to overturn Galileos phrase: Is the book

of mathematics written in a natural language?

(Lochak 2015)

not misreading his argument, the highest and most revolutionary point reached by post-World War II mathematics:

Grothendiecks work. With a daring table (43) as daring as it

is arbitrary, like any such schematization Zalamea sums up

the principal modes of conceptualization and construction

pertaining to contemporary mathematics []: arithmetical

mixing, geometrization, schematization, structural fluxion

and reflexitity. In his text, he gradually develops the meaning of each of these modes, attributing to Grothendieck alone

the distinction of having contributed to every one of these

forms of mathematical construction.

Before delving deeper into the arguments, and maintaining

a rather survey-like approach (an inevitability when trying to

sum up a book this rich) I think that I can single out the core

node of Zalameas thought in this statement: contemporary

mathematics systematically studies deformations of the representations of concepts (172). In more classical fashion, I

would rephrase this by saying that mathematics is, in primis,

the analysis of invariants and of the transformations that

preserve them (including the analysis of non-preservations,

deformations and symmetry breakings). This does not aim to

be an exhaustive framing of mathematical construction, but

rather the proposal of a different point of view, in opposition

to, for example, the set-theoretical analytical one.

I will also try to show how Grothendieck, in particular, went

beyond this vision of mathematics inherited from Kleins

Erlangen Program and developed by many others (that of

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

symmetries, invariants, and transformations). Grothendieck

proposed notions and structures of an intrinsic mathematical purity, free from any contingency requiring proof of

invariance, presented in an highly abstract (yet not formal)

mode, always rich of mathematical sense, particularly thanks

to the analysis of relations with other structures.

Symmetries have clearly laid at the heart of mathematics

since well before Kleins work or before 1931. Indeed we can

trace its centrality to Euclid, whose geometry is entirely constructed out of rotations and translations (symmetry groups as

invariants and as transformations), through Erlangen Program,

Noethers Theorems (1918) and Weyls work between the two

World Wars. I would like to highlight, more than Zalameas

text does, the correlations with the foundations of physics

which these last two mathematicians put at the very core of

their work and, in Weyls case, of his philosophical thought

(see Weyl 1932; 1949; 1952; 1987).

Weyls work profoundly marked the period examined by

Zalamea, moving within a framework which we could legitimately define as that of Category Theory, with frequent

mention, for example, of Topos Theory. Mac Lane, one of

the founders, along with Eilenberg, of this theory, had spent

a year in Gttingen in the early 1930s, in close contact with

Weyl, the great geometer (and mathematician, and physicist). Category Theory, considering the role it plays in the

analysis of invariants and their transformations, is indeed

a profoundly geometrical theory, so much so that it led, in

Grothendieck and Lawvere, to the geometrization of logic,

a topic I shall consider later (see Johnstone 1982; Mac Lane

and Moerdijk 1992). I should also mention (again echoing

Zalamea but with an even stronger emphasis) the role of

physical theory in mathematical invention, with particular

reference to Connes. But we cannot do everything, and I not

being a geometer, and thus unable to adjudicate on many of

Zalameas conceptual and technical analyses shall attempt

to read the text though my contemporary lens, shaped by

several years of cooperation with physicists and biologists

on the interface between the foundations of these disciplines

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Speculations VI

(see Bailly and Longo 2011; Longo and Montvil 2014).

I am no geometer and Zalameas text, one could say, is dominated by geometrical work, if intended in an extremely broad

and modern sense. It is partially this central role assigned to

geometry that motivates Zalameas vigorous polemic against

analytic philosophy. The latter has done nothing but increase

its focus on linguistic play and logico-formal axiomatics,

without any programmatic relationship with space and the

constructions of physics; without paying attention to the

constitution of mathematics in the world, and to the interface between ourselves and the world described by physics.

Frege and Hilbert, in different ways, both programmatically

wanted to avoid founding mathematics in relation to the

delirium (Frege 1884) or to the challenges of meaning of

non-euclidean geometry and physical (lived and intuited)

space (Hilbert 1901). And they did so for very good reasons.

In order to give certainty to mathematics, it was necessary

to keep in check

1. The dramatic break between the common-sense

intuition of space and a physics in which all that happens are continuous changes in the curvature of space

(Clifford, referring to Reimann 1854).

2. The unpredictability of dynamical systems (Poincar 1892): a result of undecidability of future state of

affairs for non-linear deterministic systems that is, for

formalizable systems of equations at the interface between mathematics and physics (see Longo 2010). It was

considered necessary to make sure that, at least in pure

mathematics, every well-formalized statement could be

decided (Hilbert). This is by principle far, therefore, from

the undecidability and chaos that systems of non-linear

equations had already started to reveal in the context of

physical dynamics.

3. The new and bewildering role played by measurement

in physics, where (classical) approximation or (quantum)

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

non-commutativity had introduced unpredictability

(Poincar) and indetermination (Plank) in the interface

between physics and mathematics.

The exactitude of the whole number, a logical and absolute

concept (Frege) and its theory Arithmetic were supposed

to guarantee unshakable certainties (Hilbert), thanks to the

demonstrable coherence and to the formal decidability of

pure mathematics: a far cry from the protean, approximate,

unpredictable, and indeterminate world of physics. And so it

happened that a century of debates on foundations remained

trapped (and for good reasons) between programmatically

meaningless formalisms and Platonist ontologies attempting to deliver a meaning from outside the world; outside,

that is, of the difficult analysis of conceptual construction,

the latter being the real bearer of meaning. It is precisely

this latter kind of project that lies at the heart of Zalameas

philosophical work.

From physics, Zalamea borrows a methodological question:

the great paradigm of Grothendiecks work, with its profound

conception of a relative mathematics [140-141] interspersed

with changes of base of every sort in very general topoi [141

-142], should be fully understood as an Einsteinian turn in

mathematics (270). And so Einsteins Invariantentheorie (as

he preferred to call it) thoroughly becomes part of the method

of this analysis of mathematical construction, broadly based

on invariants and the transformations that preserve them.

It is clear then why this approach assigns a central role to

the notion of the Category. This is not a Newtonian universe

anymore, a unique and absolute framework, the Universe of

Sets, with an absolute origin of time and space (the empty

set). It is rather the realm of a plurality of Categories and of

an analysis of transformations, functors, and natural transformations that allow their correlation (preserving what is

interesting to preserve). Among them, the Category of Sets is

surely one of the most interesting, but just one of many. We

are presented with an open universe of categories, then, to

which new categories are constantly added; new invariants,

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Speculations VI

and new transformations. Concepts are created by being correlating with existent ones, and by deforming one into the

other, thus enriching them, paying attention to the meaning

(the mathematical meaning, at least) of what is being done.

Thus Zalamea also retrieves an operational relation with

the supposed delirium or disorder we referred to at the interface of geometry with physics : Advanced mathematics

are, by contrast [to the elementary mathematics analyzed in

most philosophical reflections], essentially dynamic, open,

unstable, chaotic [] the geometry of mathematical creativity is replete with unpredictable singularities and vortices

(39). Yet there is an order, a dynamical organization to all

this since, as Lautman puts it, we continuously reconstruct

a hierarchization of mathematical geneses [] a structural

explanation of mathematics applicability to the sensible

universe (58). And this, in particular, is possible thanks to

structural dualities at the heart of any attempt to organize the

world, like those between local/global, whole/part, extrinsic/

intrinsic, continuous/discrete, etc., as Zalamea, writes, again

quoting Lautman (64). Indeed, Lautman intuits a mathematics of structural relations beyond a mathematics of objects

which is to say, he prefigures the path of category theory

(68), which was indeed born just a few years after his death.

The conceptual node that must be added to the analysis

of proof, which was the dominant preoccupation of foundational projects in twentieth-century mathematics, is that of

the analysis of the constitution of concepts and structures

(where these latter are seen as an additional organization

of mathematical concepts).5 This is what Zalamea aims at:

5 Proof theory is an extremely important and elegant branch of mathematics (and by working with its varieties (with and without Types),

its categorial semantics and its applications I have managed to earn

a living for most of my life). However, in philosophy, to omit this or

that pillar of foundational analysis is a typically analytic limit. Corfield

(2003) and Mancosu (2008) have worked to overcome this limit and to

avoid both the Scylla and the Charybdis I mentioned above, by referring

to Mathematical Practice (or Real Mathematics), as if there were a

mathematics which is not a very real praxis: a way to underline the delay

of philosophical reflection on contemporary mathematics, something

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

for him, Lautman and Cavaills are frequent points of reference, two philosophers utterly forgotten by logico-linguistic

approaches to mathematics (yet enjoying a more flattering

oblivion than Poincar and Weyl, who have been subject to

offensive caricature as, for example, half-hearted Brouwers

or semi-intuitionists).

I omit several passages and citations from the opening

chapters of the book, where I find myself somewhat perplexed

by what seems to me the excessive space dedicated to those,

like Badiou and Maddy, who place the category of Sets in the

usual role of absolute, Newtonian universe albeit (in Badious

case) with some dynamical inflection. Badiou, for example,

in a recent seminar at the cole Normale Suprieure (Paris)

has explained referring uniquely to the (original) statement

of the Yoneda Lemma that every (locally small) category

is reducible to (embeddable in) the Universe of Sets (Set),

modulo a Topos of prescheaves (on Set). This would definitely

prove the absolute role of Set for mathematics. Now, the proof

of the Lemma yields a more general result. The functional

embedding just described is possible within every Topos

considered as a Universe in which one sees the given (locally

small) category as an object: the embedding is then possible

towards the presheaves on any Topos.6 Therefore, by this construction, every Topos (typically a pre-sheaves category, but I

shall come back to this) can play an analogous relativizing

role, without for all that becoming an indispensable absolute.7

that Zalamea does more explicitly. Among the interesting analyses of the

contemporary mathematical work that these volumes present, I want to

single out the articles by McLarty on the notion of scheme (a topological

space with a sheaf of rings or more), and of Urquhart on mathematical

inventiveness in physics, often non-rigorous or presenting an original

informal rigour, a co-constitution of sense and therefore, gradually, of

new mathematical structures (see Mancosu 2008).

6 One of the few required properties is the locally small hypothesis:

every collection of morphisms Hom(A,B), must be a set (see Mac Lane

and Moerdijk 1992). Once more, a close look at the assumptions and

the proof (its right level of generality, in this case) is essential for the

understanding of a theorem.

7 Many (all?) categorial objects can be codified as sets, even Set, the para-

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Speculations VI

Similarly, Maddy identifies mathematical practice with the

work done upon a structureless set theory and identifies, in

this non-structured assembling of points and elements, the

cognitive foundations of mathematics. These approaches

are in explicit contrast with the key ideas of Zalameas book

which, centered upon categorical universes of geometrical

inspiration, attempts to make us appreciate the structural

sense of mathematical construction.

Luckily, soon afterwards, a reference to Chtelet enlightens

us with a much different insight. References (perhaps too

cursory) to that masterpiece that is Chtelet 1993, bring our

attention back to the gesture constitutive of mathematical

objectivity, which lies on the border of the virtual and the

actual, in a tight interrelation between the construction of

objects of study and objectivity in physics and the analysis

of the organizational structures of the world, starting with

symmetries. Chtelets book, it should be emphasized, is also

an history; rather, it is a historico-rational reconstruction

of the rich entanglement between physics and mathematics running through the 1800s up to, and stopping short of,

the advent of Set Theory. Regarding some related aspects of

contemporary mathematics, Patras 2001 (a book that Zalamea cursorily mentions), has retrieved the point of view of

structural mathematics with a philosophical competence

rare to find in a mathematician. Patras exhibits the weaving together of structures and transformations that governs

mathematical construction from the inside, from the point

of view of mathematical practice and invention.

In general, the origin of meaning in mathematics is to be

found in the ways in which it allows us to organize, to strucdoxical set of all sets. In every such occasion an ad hoc construction or

codification is necessary, and in such a case, we pay the price of stretching the sets, up to cardinals as inaccessible (Kanamori 2003) as they are

far from the construction one wants to interpret. These are codifications

that push the meaning of categorial structures out of sight. The point,

indeed, is not the possibility of a coding, perhaps a meaningless one: it

is rather the relativizing -- and geometrical diagrammatical knowing

proper of categories, which is sensitive to coding, as we might put it,

that makes all the difference.

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

ture, the world. Only then does it detach itself from the world

in the autonomy of constitutive gestures, between the virtual

and the actual where, at a farther remove from the original

constitution of meaning, one obtains relevant results at the

intersection between constructions of diverse origin. From

classic algebraic geometry and differential geometry, two very

productive blends, to sheaf-cohomology and cohomologysheaves, between complex analysis and algebra (179), where,

as Serre puts it, such problems are not group theory, nor

topology, nor number theory: they are just mathematics.

Structural continuity becomes conceptual continuity, a

navigation between concepts as a sophisticated technical

transits over a continuous conceptual ground.

In brief, the study of structures, of their continuous

enchanements and deformations, is an essential component of foundational analysis; without it one can at best

hope to do Set Theory.8 The latter is an extremely interesting

theory and category: the error is to make an absolute out of

it and to posit sets of meaningless points at the root of every

mathematical construction, in what amounts to a ruinous

disintegration of sense. The origin of mathematics and its

principle of construction are located in that which is meaningful, in thought operations that structure and organize the

world, but which then go to intersect on planes far removed

from the world and acquire by these conceptual interactions

a proper mathematical sense.

Thus Zalamea cites the Langlands Program. Langlands

dared to write to the more famous Andr Weil proposing an

extensive web of conjectures by which number theory, algebra,

and analysis are interrelated in a precise manner, eliminating

the official divisions between the subdisciplines, and suggesting that one approach the world of the complex variable

and the world of algebraic extensions functorially, by way of

8 Consider that the axioms of Set Theory, essentially created in order to

adjudicate the validity of principles of well-ordering and choice, are

silent on them: a failure for a whole program. A refined analysis has been

conducted, in structured environments wherein these constructions can

be relativized, by Blass (1983).

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Speculations VI

group actions. This will indicate an unexpected equivalence

between certain differentiable structures associated with an

extended modularity (the automorphic forms associated with

the linear group) and certain arithmetical structures associated with analytic continuations (the L-representations of the

Galois group) (180-182). Here we see groups again, and thus

transformations and symmetries, both technical and conceptual, which allow for this splendid structural unity which lies

at the heart of mathematics: in a certain sense, Langlands

program extends Erlangens program to Number Theory. So

technical and conceptual invariants get transformed, like the

generalized analysis of continuity that underlies the notion

of fibration, and the subtle interplay between continuous

and discrete, the founding aporia of mathematics [] that

drives the discipline, as Thom puts it (138).

Zalamea recognizes that nothing could therefore be further

from an understanding of mathematical invention than a

philosophical posture that tries to mimic the set-theoretical

analytic, and presumes to indulge in such antiseptic procedures as the elimination of the inevitable contradictions

of doing mathematics or the reduction of the continuous/

discrete dialectic (183-184). This, I would add, extends all the

way to the discrete-computational approaches, flat (or better:

unidimensional) visions of the world, according to which

the Universe (Wolfram and others), the brain (too many to

mention), or DNA (Monod, Jacob, Crick) would be a (large,

medium or small ) Turing Machine (see Longo 2009, 2012).

The great invention of Gdel, Turing and others in the 1930s,

the theory of logical-formal - computability, instantiated in

machines that today are changing our world, is projected by

these stances to the world and identified with it, even while it

was originally developed, within (Frege and) Hilberts logical

systems, thus to explicitly distinguish itself from the world.

Nowadays these approaches are not so counterproductive in

physics, where they are mostly ignored: in biology, instead,

such frameworks and methods exclusively grounded on

discrete sets of strings of code have profoundly impaired the

comprehension of biological phenomena. It is here that I will

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

introduce a correlation of outlooks, the necessity of which I

hope to convince the reader of.

Let us begin with an example. The discrete-computational

outlook has not helped us (or has not permitted us) to detect

the role of endocrine perturbators of the 80.000 (sic) artificial

molecules that we produced in the twentieth century. These

were mostly presumed to be innocuous, below arbitrarily

imposed individual thresholds, since not stereo-specific

(not in exact physico-chemical-geometric correspondence)

and thus unable to interfere with molecular-computational

cascades, necessarily stereo-specific, going from DNA to

RNA to proteins (the Central Dogma of molecular biology),

and with hormonal pathways. It should be noted, indeed,

that exact molecular stereo-specificity was deduced, against

experimental evidence that were already available (since 1957,

see Elowitz and Levine 2002; Raj and Oudernaaden 2008): it

is necessary, as Monod (1972) puts it, for the transmission of

computational information and for the genetic programme

to function. Thus, negating the role of context in genetic

expression and hormonal control, the consequences (direct

and indirect) of the finite combinations of said 80.000 molecules on the organism and on the chemical ecosystem of the

living have receded from view. Cancer incidence has grown

in the last half century, across all age groups, jointly to the

halving (sic) of the average density of human spermatozoa

in Western countries (Diamanti-Kandarakis et al. 2009; Soto

and Sonnenschein 1999, 2010). As for cancer, the failure of the

fifty years old, DNA centered, molecular approach has been

recently aknowledged even by one if its founding fathers,

Weinberg (2014).

In contrast with the claims of the informational analyses,

macromolecular interactions even within the cell, where the

macromolecules in Brownian motion have quasi-chaotic entalpic oscillation are stochastic, and are given as probabilities,

and these probabilities depend upon the context; a strongly

influential context, made of interactions, deformations, morphogenetic fields, biological networks and structures, and so

on (see Elowits and Levine 2002; Noble 2006, among others.

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Speculations VI

See also Longo and Montvil 2014). A context, then, made of

ecosystemic structures and their transformations, very different from the fragmentation of the analysis of organisms as

sets of molecules promoted by the still-dominant Laplacean

reconstruction (a linear one, molecule after molecule, a cartesian mechanisms says Monod).

The discourse on the foundations of mathematics has

played an enormous scientific, suggestive and metaphorical

role in these events: the absolute certainty of the arithmetical discrete/finite, decidable (and thus programmable) has

produced, on the one hand, original and powerful machines,

perfectly artificial instruments for formal calculus allowing

the networking of the world, while on the other it has contaminated our worldview even though, originally, it had been

lucidly and courageously originally proposed, by Frege and

Hilbert, in order to detach those foundations from the world.

Logics, Topos, and Symmetries. In Brief.

Returning to less dramatic topics, another author Zalamea

often refers to is Lawvere. The latter transferred Grothendiecks notions into an original analysis of Logic, grasping

how Topos Theory and, more generally, Category Theory

presents a permanent back-and-forth between the three

basic dimensions of the semiotic, emphasizing translations and pragmatic correlations (functorial comparisons,

adjunctions) over both semantic aspects (canonical classes

of models) and syntactic ones (orderings of types) (191).

Going back to my first scientific life, I remember the interest

around the categorical interpretation of Type Theory, which

owes much to many brilliant mathematicians who Zalamea

has no space to mention (but who are cited in Longo 1988;

Asperti and Longo 1991). A wonderful community, where a

logical sensibility and I am thinking of the challenge offered by Girards Impredicative Theories of Types found

in categorical semantics a strong link to the mathematics of

structures that concerns Zalamea. The crucial point is the

geometrization of logic and its relativization to Topoi

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

that can have different internal logics, properly correlated

by functors and natural transformations.

In these circles, Fregean quantifiers, for example, are interpreted in terms of adjunctions. More precisely, existential

and universal quantifiers become right and left adjuncts to a

sort of diagonal functor: the pullback along a projection. Then

the existential quantifier is interpreted as the projection in

a product of objects in well-defined Topoi, and the universal

quantifier is its dual, modulo an adjunction. So the level of

effectivity of the existential quantifier (the possibility of

effectively constructing the mathematical object whose

existence is predicated), a delicate issue that has been the

object of a century-long debate, is relativized to the effective

nature of morphisms in the intended Topos as a (relative)

Universe that is, to its internal logic. The meaning of

logico-formal construction, then, is given by a reflexive interplay of invariances and symmetries (the duality present

in an adjunction) without the need for an understanding of

for every as meaning for every, or that exists really means

exists just as, for far too long, we have been told that snow

is white is true just when snow is white, a truly remarkable

mathematical discovery. When the geometric meaning of

an adjunction is known, qua profound and omnipervasive

construct of Category Theory, the meaning and the relation

between the quantifiers is enriched with a new structural significance through the construction described above. That is,

they become immersed in a geometric context, a universe of

dynamic and modifiable structures. In particular, it becomes

possible to go from one logic to another, from one Topos to

another, studying their invariants and transformations, that

is, the functorial immersions and the adjunctions correlating them. For this reason I often say, in provocative manner,

that I am happy to leave the question of truth to priests and

analytic philosophers: we operate constructions of sense, we

organize the world by proposing and correlating structures

that have a meaning because of our being world-bound active humans in different conceptual worlds which we strive

to put into dialogue. Let us not confuse this with the fact that

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Speculations VI

the judge seeks, in witnesses for example, the truth: science

is not a testimony of, but an action upon the world, aimed at

organizing it and giving meaning to it.

I will return shortly to this extremely timely geometrization

of Logic, a royal way out of the narrow singlemindedness

of the logico-linguistic turn. In this regard, Zalamea quotes

Girard who, within Proof Theory, has subsumed the same

structural sensibility, the same distance from Tarskian truth

and its ontological flavours. I remember when I first attended,

in the 1980s, a talk by Girard on Linear Logic; I asked him

why, after having radically modified the structural rules

of logics, changing their symmetries in formal notation, he

had introduced a certain inference rule. He replied: for reasons of symmetry.9. Symmetries are at the core of the close

relationship between physics and mathematics, ever since

Archimedes asked himself: why doesnt a scale with equal

weights on both sides move? And answered: For reasons of

symmetry. Guided by the same symmetry reasons, Sacharov

and Feynman proposed anti-matter, thus giving a meaning

faced with experimental phenomena in need of explanation to the negative solution of Diracs electron equation.

Alas, unfortunately (or fortunately?) cellular reproduction

is at the heart of ontogenesis and phylogenesis, also because

it is asymmetrical.

More on Invariance and Symmetries,

in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences

1-Between mathematics and physics: Symmetries,

Gestures, and Measures.

I have been too critical, much more than Zalamea is, of

Set Theory as a foundational discipline, since there is one

9 Symmetry principles or more precisely principles of inversion were

already present in Grentzens sequent calculus, to which Girard explicitly

refers to. They permit the generation of a calculus starting with logical connectives, and to finely analyze the properties of proof-theoretic

normalization (see Negri and von Plato 2001).

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concept about which it has been the field of a rigorous and

useful foundational analysis: the question of the infinite.10

This is a crucial concept in mathematics. All mathematics

is construction to the limit, starting with the line with no

thickness of Greek geometry, a limit construction, all the

way to the higher constructs I have discussed above. It has

come into relation with physics since Galileos asymptotic

principle of inertia. Great merit goes to Shelah, whose work

Zalamea discusses at great length, for he demonstrated that

the theory of singular cardinals corresponds to the idea of

seeking natural algebraic invariants (homotopies, homologies)

for topology (202). From there, we are referred to Serres work

on homotopy, which makes possible an algebraic-topological

relativization of the notions of finite and infinite. Once again,

it is a relativizing operation, breaking with the absolutes of

logicist formalisms, according to which the finite is locus of

certainty and absoluteness. Likewise, in physics, the Riemann

Sphere, a bidimensional model of the relativistic universe, is

infinite for its surface-bound inhabitant moving towards the

poles, whose meter stick progressively contracts; it is finite

as observed from an external reference frame.

At the level of groups, however, a discrete combinatorics can

be fundamental; indeed, Zalamea refers to the GrothendieckTeichmller groups, which may come to govern certain

correlations between the universal constants of physics (the

speed of light, the Planck constant, the gravitational constant),

while, conversely, certain mathematical theories originating

in quantum mechanics (non-commutative geometry) may

help to resolve difficult problems in arithmetic (the Riemann

hypothesis) (205). As Zalamea tells us, here we witness absolutely unanticipated results, which bring together the most

10This analysis extends all the way to the recent and daring anti-Cantorian

explorations of Benci, Di Nasso and Forti (in Blass et al. 2012). According to them, as for Euclid, the whole is larger than its parts, even for

infinite sets (at least when denumerable: this approach, for the time

being, is not extended beyond the denumerable. For this latter domain,

we will probably have to look beyond the category of sets, towards other

structural invariants).

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abstract mathematical inventions and the most concrete

physical universe (206).

Through a back-and-forth between mathematics and physics,

various intersections far from the world are drawn out, between domains with roots in diverse conceptual constructions,

each originating in different organizational actions upon the

physical world. It is neither unreasonable nor surprising that

the locus of conceptual invariance and of the analysis of its

transformations mathematics should influence theoretical

physics. Beyond the strict relation mentioned above between

mathematical symmetries and conservation principles in

physics (Noether, Weyl), the physicists theoretical work begins

from the invention of appropriate, and very abstract, mathematical phase-spaces (observables and pertinent parameters)

like the spaces of state-function in quantum mechanics or

Hilbert spaces; all phase-spaces the physicist uses or builds

to analyze (generic) objects and (specific) trajectories, result,

in turn, from symmetries and invariances. I will try to sum

up here analyses and notions which are central to attempts to

differentiate and establish a dialogue between mathematics,

physics, and biology (as exposed in Bailly and Longo 2011

and Longo and Montvil 2014).

Mathematics and physics share a common construction

insofar as they isolate and draw pertinent objects, perfectly

abstract and with pure contours like Euclids lines with no

thickness, edges of figures drawn on the veil of phenomenality, at the interface between us and the world. Euclid, indeed,

invents the difficult notion of border: his figures are nothing

but borders, and thus without thickness one thinks of Thoms

cobordism (Rudyak 2008). These objects, in mathematics as

in physics, are generic, that is interchangeable, symmetrical

according to permutations within their definitional domains.

A right-angled triangle in Euclid, a Banach space, or a sheaf,

are all generic, as are Galileos weight, an electron, a photon,

and so on. These are generic insofar as they are invariants of

theory and of physical experience, symmetrically permutable

with any other. So that the same theory can deal with falling

apples and planets as generic gravitational objects, just as the

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even more marked theoretical invariance of the theory of

relativistic bodies allows us to unify gravitation and inertia.

The genericity of objects and of structures, therefore, is the

result of a fundamental symmetry/invariance, shared by both

mathematics and physics.

Beginning with the genericity of its objects, physics analyzes

trajectories in a suitable phase-space. The classical one based

on momentum and position (or energy and time) is only one

among many (thermodynamics, for example, operates within

a space defined by pressure volume temperature, and has

added a revolutionary observable: entropy). These trajectories

are specific, unique, and are imposed by the geodetic principle

in its various instances. Even in quantum mechanics, where

the quanta certainly do not follow trajectories in space-time,

the Hamiltonian allows the derivation of the Schrdinger

equation, defining the trajectory of a probability amplitude

in Hilbert space. But the Hamiltonian, or the extremization

of a Lagrangian functional, follow from a conservation principle a principle of symmetry as Noethers theorems have

explained (see Kosmann-Schwarzbach 2004; Bailly and Longo

2011). Here is the extraordinary unity, completely construed

or better co-construed, of the physical-mathematical edifice.

Here is the power of its intelligibility, utterly human, for we

animals characterized by a fundamental bilateral symmetry

who, in language and intersubjective practices, organize the

world, our arts, and our knowledge in terms of symmetries

(see Weyl 1949, 1952, followed by Van Fraassen 1993) and,

subsequently, their breaking.

Such unity will be discovered in the symmetry breaking

constituted by the non-Euclidean modifications of Euclids

fifth postulate which yields the closure of the Euclidean

plane under the group of homotheties a breaking that will

allow Einstein to give a mathematical foundation to relativist

physics, beginning with the astonishing measurement of the

invariance of the speed of light. Likewise, in Connes noncommutative geometry, which includes physical measure in

the foundations of his approach: Heisenbergs matrix algebras,

from which it derives in analogy with Geflands construction,

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are built starting with the non-commutable nature of quantum measurement. In a striking difference from arithmetical

foundations, geometry, the privileged locus of invariance and

transformations, has always had an origin in a constructive

relationship of access to space and its processes: from the

Greek compass and straightedge to Riemanns rigid body, to

the algebras derived from Conness quantum measurement,

yet another bridge between mathematics and the universe

of physics.

To sum up, a fundamental component of the unity we have

delineated between mathematics and the theorization of the

inert is this central role assigned to the genericity of objects

and the specificity of their trajectories, both being definable

in terms of symmetries. To this we should add an active relation to the world, grounded on both the constitutive gesture

of the continuous line, of the trajectory a movement at the

origin of the phenomenic continuum and on the access to

the world as mediated by measurement: classic, relativistic,

and quantum. Following Zalamea, I will return, in what follows,

to some contemporary consequences of these considerations

(which sum up ideas extensively developped in Bailly and

Longo 2011 and in Longo and Montvil 2014, and are directed

towards a discussion of biology).

2- What About Biology?

What can we say about the theorization of the living? The

only great biological theory, Darwins, was born by positing

some principles: of which the first in particular, descent

with modification (indispensable for the second, selection), stands in stark contrast to those conservation principles (symmetries) which, starting with Galileos inertia

and the geodetic principle (think of Hamiltons variational

method, contemporary to Darwin), were taking center stage

in physics. Descent with modification is a principle of

non-conservation of the phenotype, of organisms, of species

and of all the observables of Evolutionary Theory. The morphogenetic iterationin the living, in particular reproduction

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as conservation by inheritance, is never identical to itself,

and this must be take its place as a fundamental principle,

together with Darwins, of the intelligibility of ontogenesis

(see Longo et al. 2014).

We are working towards an understanding of onto-phylogenetic trajectories as cascades of symmetry change, a

kind of extended critical transitions (see below), borrowing a method from physics: a mathematical construction

of objectivity, yet with dual principles. Critical transitions

capture the continuity of change that is proper to reproduction. The challenge is to unify ontogenesis and phylogenesis,

on the basis of the same, or similar, principles (see Longo et

al. 2014), thus towards a theory of organism and therefore

of ontogenesis, avoiding the prescientific metaphors of an

Aristotelian homunculus codified in the DNA (even when

the defenders of such theories dress their ideas in modern

garments: the homunculus is in a machine code and the

DNA contains both the program and the operating system

[Danchin 2009]).

The problem is that biological trajectories, cascades of

changes of symmetry in constant interaction with the ecosystem, must be considered as generic: they are possible

trajectories among the many which are compatible with the

ecosystem the limbs of an elephant, of a kangaroo, of a whale

(its vestigial forms) are so many possible evolutions originating form a same tetrapod vertebrate. Whats particularly

hard to grasp is that they are possibilia in phase-spaces (to

use a physics jargon), not pre-given but rather co-constituted

with trajectories: so an organism, in phylogenesis as well as

in ontogenesis, co-constructs its ecosystem: consider how,

two to three billion years ago, bacteria created oxygen, beginning with a primitive atmosphere which contained none or

in negligible amounts. And so the pertinent observables

that is, the phenotypes are modified up to speciation. The

result of this evolutionary trajectory is an historical and

individuated object, a specific organism, the result of a contingent cascade of change of symmetry (qua changes of the

coherence between organism and ecosystem) channeled by

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massive historical constraints. One of the most important

of which is the DNA: the imposing chemical trace of an history, continuously employed by the organism throughout

the course of ontogenesis.

To sum up: biological trajectories are generic, while their

objects are specific a radical duality, as opposed to the

physical-mathematical realm, where we pointed out the genericity of the objects and the specificity of the trajectories.

Such duality profoundly modifies the role so rich in physics of symmetries, invariances and transformation. To the

impenitent reductionist, hellbent on an abstract physics (and

not the physics of the historically-situated theories) to which

everything must be reduced, we respond (see the introduction of Longo and Montvil 2014) with a recommendation,

for example, to try to reduce the classical domain to the

quantum one, or the hydrodynamics of incompressible fluids

in a continuum to quantum mechanical principles, if she can

after all, there are both classical and quantum dynamics (and

plenty of water) at play within a cell. The unity of knowledge

and of its scientific instruments, starting with unity in physics, is a hard-won conquest as in the case of quantum and

relativistic physics and not a theoretical a priori.

I mention these problems both because they are my current interests and because the construction of objects and

structures in mathematics has proceeded in lockstep with a

prodigious construction of objectivity in physics, simoultaneously locating in the richness of language and of historically

located human gestures an autonomy that pushed it steadily

away from physical experience (where is Euclids thickless

line to be found? Where is a Grothendieck pre-sheaf located?).

And yet, considering the analogous approach in physics and

mathematics to objects and trajectories, this was a process

of constitution capable of falling back again upon physics,

through unexpected avenues: think of the marvelous story

of Cardanos imaginary numbers, having an highly abstract

algebraic origin and yet being today essential to talk about

microphysics (yet Argands and Gausss interpretation allows

us to discern a possible role for them in the description of

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wave amplitudes and their trajectories: before falling back

upon the world, they became a rich geometric structure).

This parallel construction of objects and concepts does not

merely concern the interaction of physics and mathematics.

Indeed, even in the ambit of proof, mathematics does not

proceed by way of demonstrations of already-given formulae as the formalist caricature would have it and physics

does not construct theories as summations of experiences

and facts. Neither proofs nor theories are already there, not

even in the most dynamical and weakly-Platonic sense. The

construction of sense plays a powerful role in proof, even

arithmetical proof (see Longo 2010, 2011); likewise, physical theory tells us which observables are to be isolated and

analyzed, which experiences to have, which phenomena to

observe. Mathematics and physics are the result of a laborious effort of knowledge construction, as Weyl has it, through

a non-arbitrary friction with the world. Non-arbitrary and

effective precisely because rich in history and contingency:

mathematics and physics are thus a human praxis in and

towards the world, as Peirce a thinker Zalamea often likes

to refer to would say.

Contemporary biology poses enormous challenges: to face

them we would need to combine the imagination of Newton

(a Newton of the blade of grass, as Kant has it, without denying

the possibility of such a science), with his differential calculus

as infinitary construction to understand the movement of

the finite; of Hamilton, with the variational method for the

geodetic principle; of Dirac, with his delta, for a long time

without any mathematical sense; and of Feynman, with his

integral, the solution of a still-non-defined equation. The

principal invariant in biology (fortunately not the only one)

is variability: it allows diversity adaptability, at the heart of

the structural stability of the living. What to do with our

invariantentheorien?

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Groups Everywhere, Metrics Everywhere

Among the omnipresent references to Grothendieck, Zalamea underlines time and again how his work incorporates

a transit between objects (variations, perturbations) so as

to then proceed to determine certain partial stabilities (invariants) beneath the transit (212). As for the invariants, I

have often referred, as Zalamea does, to those correlated with

symmetries, i.e. group structures. But together with groups (to

be interpreted as instruments of action upon spaces, all the

way to the most abstract ones due to Grothendieck), a crucial

epistemic role should be assigned to semigroup structures.

As it is observed in Bailly and Longo 2011, on the one hand

we should consider the gnoseological and mathematical

complex of {space, group, equivalence relation}, on the other

that of {time, semigroup, ordering relation}. In the passage

between the two we see a useful instrument to analyze the

interplay between space and time in the natural sciences, as

well as the difference between physics and biology: oriented/

ordered time plays a crucial operatorial role in biology, as we

say also in Longo and Montvil 2014, well beyond its role as

parameter in physics. In this regard, Zalamea insists on the

role of semigroups in the hyperbolic varieties of Lax and

Phillips (218). These are collections of operators Z(t), with a

parameter that can be interpreted as time, which permit the

construction of the deep connection that lets us unfold the

intrinsic meaning hidden in differential equations like the

non-euclidean wave equation, a meaning that can be glimpsed

precisely in virtue of the semigroup Z(t) (220).

In this inexhaustible search for unity, not forced towards

impossible reductions, but constructed with bridges, correlations, and structural passages, we can naturally mediate

between the Poincar plane, seen as a non-Euclidean model,

with its differential Riemannian geometry and analytic

invariants, on the one hand; and the same plane, seen as a

complex model, with its theory of automorphic functions and

arithmetical invariants, on the other (220). Here we arrive

at Conness programme for non-commutative geometry, a

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programme for the reconstruction of vast sections of mathematics, grounded on the non-commutativity of quantum

measure (and its algebras). The objective of this geometrization

of quantum mechanics is to contribute to its intelligibility

and, ultimately, to deliver a unification with the relativistic

universe, radically changing the theory of space not a mere

background, as string theorists claim. Zalamea adroitly sums

up several bridging aspects, correlating them with the work

of other geometers, starting with the recent developments

of Riemaniann differential geometry, with particular focus

on the passage from infinitesimal manifolds (Riemann) to

C*-algebras of compact operators (Hilbert, von Neumann),

the passage from dual K-homology (Atiyah, Brown, Douglas,

Filmore) to non-commutative C*-algebras (Connes), the passage from the index theorem (Atiyah, Singer) to the handling

of non-commutative convolutions in groupoids (Connes),

the passage from the groups and algebras of modern differential geometry (Lie) to quantum groups and Hopf algebras,

the passage from set-theoretic punctuality to the actions of

non-commutative monoids in Grothendieck topoi, etc. (224).

There is no doubt in my mind that this allows for a correspondence in fieri between mathematics (as a study of

quantities and organized in structures) and the cosmos (as

order), as Zalamea argues, legitimately philosophizing from

a conjecture of Cartier. But this shouldnt be considered a

new Pythagoreanism, in my view: it is we who single out

elements of order in the cosmos (those we can and want to

see symmetries for example). As Kontsevich, quoted by

Zalamea, has it, in physics we begin with very little: where

one doesnt see structures so much as the symmetry, locality

and linearity of observable quantities (229). We then enlarge

these almost Gestaltic elements (symmetries and locality), we

generalize them, and we transform them into the language of

a metaphysics-rich communicating community. Finally we

project them back again upon the cosmos, recognizing it as

orderly because intelligible, and intelligible because orderly.

This process is legitimate because, in this theoretical backand-forth, our friction and action upon the world are real:

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the world resists, it says no, and channels our epistemic

praxis, which is of an eminently organizational character,

and it is always active.

Such knowledge construction works because of this cognitive entanglement, beginning with the common genericity

(of objects) and specificity (of trajectories), both physical

and mathematical: the first brick of an enormous physicomathematical edifice of our making. No surprise then, a

surprise still affecting Kontsevich and Zalamea; we are left

with great admiration for such a majestic, but very reasonable, mathematical construction. Similarly, the linguist is

not surprised if, when we talk, we understand each other:

language was born with dialogue, through the practice of

mutual understanding and communication. The linguist

surely admires a great poem which, with words, introduces a

different worldview or an original intelligibility of humans,

without ontological miracles but merely with the strength of

the words meaning, a co-constituted product of our human

community. Alongside myths, poems and tragedies rich

in human experience, in human, concrete and lived praxis

as well as in metaphysics we have been able to propose the

structures of mathematics with their invariants and transformations, rich in those glances and gestures which organize

the real, as well as rich in metaphysical nuance starting with

Euclids line, a limit notion resulting from a dialogue with

the Gods. Mathematics is written in natural language, it is

a language and a gaze upon the world, at and from the limit

of the world (mathematics is the science of the infinite as

Weyl [1932] writes).

However, we only see perspectives, albeit coherent and

profound ones; points of view on fragments of the world,

we organize and make accessible small corners of it. And as

soon as that small (but oh so important) brick concerning

physico-mathematical genericity and specificity is removed,

as happens in the analysis of the living, we find ourselves in

trouble. Yet it is nothing unsurmountable: we just have to

work on it with the same freedom and secular independence

of thought, action, construction and exchange proper of the

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founding fathers of the physico-mathematical, abandoning

the ambition of finding the theoretical or mathematical

answer already there, written by God in the language of

already-existing mathematized physics.

Referring to Peirce, Zalamea too highlights the progressive

constituting of knowledge of the world:

we see how the world consists in a series of data/structures (Peircean

firstness), registers/models (Peircean secondness) and transits/functors (Peircean thirdness), whose progressive interlacing into a web not

only allows us to better understand the world, but which constitutes it

in its very emergence. (237)

analysis, from an absolute mathematics, a mathematics

at rest, in the style of Russell and proceed towards a relative mathematics, a mathematics in motion, in the style of

Grothendieck (240). The entire work of contemporary

mathematics, carefully recounted by Zalamea, aimed at the

production of

remarkable invariants without any need of being anchored in an absolute

ground. We will therefore take up a revolutionary conception which has

surfaced in contemporary mathematics in a theorematic manner: the

register of universals capable of unmooring themselves from any primordial absolute, relative universals regulating the flow of knowledge. (242)

introduces Freyds allegories: abstract categories of relations, exposed in diagrammatic terms via representations

that obviously a functional, set-theoretic reading would fail

to detect (243). I want to stress that, in general, categorial

diagrams are not equivalent to the equations to which they

can be formally reduced: the diagrams indeed highlight symmetries that are merely implicit, invisible, in the equations;

they need extracting, just as Noethers theorems extract

symmetries from the equations of physics.

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Freyd shows how, starting from pure type theories with certain structural

properties (regularity, coherence, first-order, higher-order), one can

uniformly construct, by means of a controlled architectonic hierarchy,

free categories that reflect the given structural properties in an origin

(regular categories, pre-logoi, logoi, and topoi). (243)

In this way, all the invariants of logico-relational transformations beyond the particular variants of any specific

logico-mathematical domain are expressed in a maximally

synthetic and abstract way. As usual, the analysis of transformations, of preserved structural invariants, and of variants

(which can however have a local sense) is at the heart of

mathematics, and this is confirmed by the logical-foundational

spirit of Freyds work. Referring to the latter, and taking his

moves from the Yoneda Lemma, Zalamea uses the occasion

to explain, as I mentioned above, that pre-sheaves categories

can be considered as the general locus of the continuity

wherein every discrete category can be embedded. Like Thom,

one comes to the conclusion that the continuum underlies

(is an archetype) for the discrete as well (Thom argues that

a discrete set is nothing but a collection of singularities in

a continuum).

Without necessarily according ontological priority to the

one or the other, I would like to observe that, in the natural

sciences, the discrete and the continuum organize the world

differently, and this can be demonstrated: by analyzing the

different role of symmetries and their breakings, which these

mathematical structures, when employed for theoretical organization or simulation, accentuate and project upon physical

and biological processes (see Longo and Montvil 2014a).

Having passed through a technically pertinent close-up of

the reverse mathematics of Friedman and Simpson, Zalamea

demonstrates how the work of Zilber contributed to giving a

Grothendieckian understanding of the model theory of Tarskian tradition (Chang, Keisler): no more logic + universal

algebra but algebraic geometry + fields (Shelah, Hrushovski,

Zilber, Hodges). With Zilber we have the emergence of groups

everywhere invisible at first, but lying in the depths (ar234

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chetypes) (256). A kind of renaissance and generalization

of Erlangens program, as Zalamea rightly notes.

An analogous motto allows us to grasp a central element

of Gromovs contribution to geometry: smoothing and

globalization that are tied to the notion of metrics everywhere (259). Then Zalamea hints, with fine synthetic and

analytic skill (that is, with great command of language and

pertinent mathematical references, as always), to the work

of Gromov on partial differential relations, on symplectic

varieties, and on hyperbolic groups (259) a work enriched

by a certain sensitivity, proper of the French-Russian school,

to the play between geometric insight, analytic virtuosism

and physical applicability. Introducing pseudoholomorphic

curves and seeking the

invariants of those curves, Gromov shows that the spaces modulo the

curves are compact, and that it is therefore possible to work out a natural

theory of homology, which leads to the Gromov-Witten invariants; in the

last instance, the new invariants allow us, on the one hand, to distinguish

an entire series of hitherto unclassifiable symplectic varieties, and,

on the other, help to model unexpected aspects of string theory. (262)

Once again, the analysis of the invariants and the transformations preserving them relativizing the movement

between a structure to another is at the core of Gromovs

work on Riemaniann manifolds, within a program of geometrical group theory described as the project aiming at

characteriz[ing] finitely generated groups, modulo quasiisometries, which is to say, modulo infinitesimal deformations of Lipschitz-type distances (264).

In Chapter 8, Zalamea synthetizes some of the themes

touched in the book, in order to propose his own vision of

a transitory ontology. It is a relativizing, yet not relativist

vision (of either the weak or the anything goes variety),

an Einstenian vs. Newtonian one, at the center of which lie

transformations (passages, transits) and pertinent invariants:

the transit of mathematical objects consists in finding suitable invariants (no longer elementary or classical) behind that

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transit (271). And so Zalamea himself sums up the themes

he examined more extensively earlier in the book

motifs [p.144-146], pcf theory [p.201-202], intermediate allegories

[p.245-246], Zilbers extended alternative [p.257], the h-principle

[p.263], etc. [] neither absolute foundations nor fixed objects, not

everything turns out to be comparable or equivalent, and where we can

calculate correlative archeal structures that is, invariants with respect

to a given context and a given series of correlations which, precisely,

allow differences to be detected and reintegrated. (272)

in his book, assign a key role to strong and diverse specifications of the notion of group. To emphasise this role, I borrow

Zalameas own list of topics (specifying, in square brackets,

where each theme has been considered), always examined

with a refined informality that manages to be both complete

and informative.

homology and cohomology groups [p. 142-148, 178-179], Galois groups [p.

150, 155, 225], group actions [p. 162-163, 180-181], Abelian groups [p. 165],

homotopy groups [p. 176], algebraic groups [p. 184], the GrothendieckTeichmuller group [p. 225, 233], Lie groups [p. 223], quantum groups [p.

223], Zilber groups [p. 255-256], hyperbolic groups [p. 264], etc. (272)

This demonstrates a dynamics of webs incessantly evolving as they connect with new universes of mathematical

interpretation. [] This just goes to reinforce the position

of Cavaills, who understood mathematics as gesture (273).

Such are organizational gestures of correlated mathematical

universes, correlated by a web of transformations, like the hand

gesture that organizes space, gathers, delimits, and transfers,

as we can say with Chtelet. This process assumes an historicity that serves to highlight the sense and the relationship of

mathematics vis--vis the real: mathematics works (where it

does work) and has meaning because it is constituted through

a human all too human praxis. All too human because it

is anchored to pre-human invariants, those of our actions in

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space and time; universal, for us historical and speaking human beings, precisely because pre-linguistic and pre-historical,

even though language alone allowed the transformation of

practical invariants into concepts and structures. And, in

language, writing, as Husserl (1970) observed, has further

contributed to the process of the stabilization of concepts.

Considering the correlations between groups, symmetries

and invariants, in the context of this section on groups everywhere, metrics everywhere, I would like to mention the

role of (animal) memory in the constitution of invariants.

Memory is forgetful, that is one of its essential properties:

we, as animals, forget irrelevant details of an action, of a lived

experience. Irrelevant, that is, with respect to the protensive

intentional (conscious) or not gesture, already done or

still to be performed: memory is selective in both its constitution and in its re-activation. This selective choice allows us

to undertake once again a given action in a similar but not

identical context, to operate another protension or prevision,

counting on the relative stability of the world, through changing distances, for example, which we attempt to organize in

stable metric evaluations. We do not access memory as we

would access a digital hard drive. The protensive gesture, I say

with and beyond Cavaills, reactivates memory every time:

not in a passive way, but choosing, selecting and constituting

new practical invariances, beyond those isolated and selected

by memory in its constituting process. Animal memory is

reactivated in a protensive manner, or better, it is re-lived for

a purpose, be it a conscious or non-conscious one, forgetting

all that is irrelevant to the present goal:(Edelman and Tononi

2000) argue that, in the act of memory, he brain puts itself

in a lived state..

Meaning derives, moreover, from the intentionality, even

a pre-conscious one, that inheres in protensive gestures,

particularly in a perturbative modality. It is that which

interferes with, and which operates a friction upon, the protensive action which acquires, for us as animals, a meaning.

And there is no protension without retention. Obviously,

then, a digital machine with a perfect memory cannot do

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mathematics, because it cannot constitute invariants and

its associated transformation groups, because a perfect,

non-protensive memory does not construct meaning, not

even mathematical meaning. At most, the machine can help

with formal fragments of proofs, or check, a posteriori, the

formalized proof, or parts of it (proof-assistance and proofchecking are burgeoning fields). Only animal memory and

its human meaning allow not only the construction of concepts and structures, but proof as well, as soon as the latter

requires us to propose new concepts and structures, or the

employment of ordering or invariance properties which go

beyond the given formal system (well-ordering, say, or the

genericity of infinitary structures). It is thus that recent results on the concrete incompleteness of formal systems can

be interpreted: meaning demonstrably lurks in the proofs of

formally unprovable theorems (see Longo 2010, 2011).

Zalameas transitory ontology

Zalamea insists on employing a terminology of different

forms of ontology (local, regional, transitory). Mathematics, between 1950 and 2000, as he adequately demonstrates,

proceeded by an analysis of streams, transits and deformations of structures, and their limits. A network was therefore

built, a web weaving together via passages and transits, but

also dualities and limits a bewildering variety of constructions. In such a web even Logic and Proof Theory find a new

structural significance,

where pivotal statements in logic such as the Loz theorem for ultraproducts, the completeness theorem for first-order logic, forcing

constructions in sets, and theorems of type omissions in fragments of

infinitary logic, can all be seen, uniformly, as constructions of generic

structures in appropriate sheaves. (284)

very often mentioned in the text. Born with Lerays analysis of

indexes and converings of differential equations, sheaves

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are precisely what help to capture (and glue together) the continuous variation in the fibers. (285, n. 345). Moreover they

allow movement between the local and the global. So, thanks

to Grothendiecks generalization (sheaves on a Grothendieck

topology), they allow the integration of a profound web of

correlations in which aspects both analytic and synthetic,

both local and global, and both discrete and continuous are

all incorporated (286). Obviously, the category-theoretical

framework is the most fitting for this organization of mathematics. If in the Category of Sets objects are non-structured and

non-correlated conglomerates of elements, category theory

studies objects through their external, synthetic behavior, in

virtue of the objects relations with its environment (288).

Avoiding set-theoretic absolutes, in Category Theory the

notion of universality, for example, is relativized, becoming a unicity relative to given structures, in the given class

of morphisms. We have already observed how the analytic/

set-theoretic approach leads, perniciously, to the description

of every categorial diagram in terms of equations. Now the

constructions (co-product, adjuctions, pull-backs) or the

proofs in Category Theory can be based upon, and have a

meaning thanks to, symmetries and dualities present in the

diagrams, absolutely invisible in the equations. I therefore

once again underscore the fundamental contribution of

Noethers theorems, which extract physical invariants by

reading symmetries in the equations (of motion): in the

same way that categorial diagrams extract meaning out of

mathematical correlations, which then become visible and

comparable symmetries.11

11 We should note that the notions of scheme from algebraic geometry, of

frame of locale theory, or of Grothendieck topos, and their properties,

are not captured by an approach in terms of space = set + topology (or

space = set + structure). For example, from the constructivist point of

view, important theorems like Heine-Borels do not hold in set-theoretic

contexts, while they do in adequate, point-free, topos (see Cederquist and

Negri 1996). Similarly, constructions based on pull-back, insofar as they

are eminently categorial, allow to distinguish the obtained structure from

the set of points (when it is not an invariant with respect to the sets of

points in question). And a pull-back, typically, has a meaning a visible

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Zalameas work aims at moving the web of mathematical structures that have been introduced by contemporary

mathematics to the level of epistemological analysis, similarly as we saw the transfer the methodological content of

Einsteins invarintentheorie to a foundational approach.

That is to say, it aims at the construction of a comparative

epistemology, a sort of epistemological sheaf, sensitive to the

inevitable complementary dialectic of variety and unity that

contemporary mathematics demands (296). A mathematical knowledge some of whose highest peaks Zalamea (296)

enumerates (Grothendiecks motifs beneath the variations

of cohomologies [p. 144-148] [] Freyds classifying topoi

beneath the variations of relative categories [p. 245-246]),

proceeds between conceptual networks and their deformations

by means of series of iterations in correlative triadic realms:

differentiation-integration-invariance, eidos-quidditas-arkh,

abduction-induction-deduction, possibility-actuality-necessity,

locality-globality-mediation (297). The goal is that of a sort

of epistemological sheafification, where the local differential

multiplicity is recomposed into an integral global unity (299).

Is this a foundationalist epistemological analysis? It

surely is, in my opinion, since every epistemology is also

an analysis of a network of correlations and an history, a rational reconstruction of a constitutive path, evidencing the

network of passages and transits and, in this way, the unity of

the construction of knowledge. Of course, such an analysis

doesnt propose logical or ontological absolute foundations,

since the network is held together thanks to its own structure,

but also thanks to its friction upon the world, thanks to the

unity of language, thanks to its history through which it

constituted itself and thanks to the windows of intelligibility that it bestoys upon us. In this sense, to be provocative

once again, I would go as far as to say that mathematics helps

us to construct objectivity precisely because it is contingent,

the result of the history of a real friction with the world.

meaning only if we can appreciate its symmetries: the construction

itself is given by a duality (a symmetry) upon diagrams.

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In this history we need to include that cognitive rooting, all

the way back to its pre-human form, at which I hinted before

when considering the role of memory in the constitution of

invariants. Zalamea briefly refers to another interesting and

technically deeper cognitive analysis, correlated to Gestalt,

with which Petitot (2008), and Citti and Sartri (2013) describe

the visual brain, neurogeometry. In the construction of the

world (in its friction with it) the brain, always active and plastic,

structures itself in a way that can be grasped geometrically,

thanks to complex symplectic structures. The brain organizes

the world through vision by imposing contours, correlating

points with the regularity of minimal forms, relative geodetics, and reading and imposing symmetries.

These kind of analyses, like those I mentioned above vis-vis memory, are not operations of cognitive reduction,

but rather tend to highlight the possible initial steps of a

constitutive path through which our communicating community has assembled conceptual mountains in a contingent, because historical, way. An alien friend of mine, from

the Sirius system, has no corporeal symmetry and interacts

with her ecosystem thanks to zuzrbs, and organizes her

world on the basis of a fundamental regularity that we cannot appreciate, but that may nevertheless be singled out, the

tzsuxu. It is another gaze, another epistemically efficacious

perspective, one perhaps compatible with ours (or even able

to unify microphysics and astrophysics, still, for us, objects of

incompatible descriptions). Another light is thus shone upon

the universe, of which we see little more than the humble tick,

whose Umwelt is so adroitly described by Von Uexkll (1934),

a tick who has been successfully coping with the universe for

far longer than we have.

Zalamea, instead, insists much on

the hypothesis of a continuity between the world of phenomena, the

world of mathematical (quasi-)objects associated with those phenomena, and the world of the knowledge of those objects which is to say,

the hypothesis of a continuity between the phenomenal, the ontic and

the epistemic From an epistemological point of view, the distinct

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perspectives are nothing other than breaks in continuity. (304-5)

it is possible to move with continuity between our two

points of view, and with mutual enrichment. As for myself,

I will insist, in the next section, on the critical transition

between these worlds, which needs to be analyzed in terms

of physical measure, or ways of access to phenomena. I have

indeed spoken of the constitution of invariants that lies at

the heart of the construction of (physico-mathematical)

knowledge, in continuity with action upon the world, yet not

with the world in itself.

I am in complete agreement with the project of a geometricization of epistemology [] that would help us to

overcome (or, at least, to complement) the logicization of

epistemology undertaken throughout the twentieth century (307). The distinction between principles of proof

and principles of (conceptual) construction (in Bailly and

Longo 2011) and the comparative analysis of the two sets

of principles in mathematics and physics first, and in biology, is precisely aimed at overcoming (complementing) the

monomaniacal (if profound and fertile) approach to Proof

Theory as the only locus for the foundations of mathematics.

And this geometry of epistemology consists, in primis, in

a Grothendieck-Lawvere-style geometrization of logic (but

one that also follows from Girard and his geometry of proof

[2001, 2007]). A project analogous to the geometrization of

physics, from Poincars geometry of dynamical systems

to the enormous work that goes from Riemann to Einstein

and Weyl in physics and from Gromov and Connes in quantum mechanics. We speak, therefore, of the construction of

mathematico-philosophico-metaphorical tools which, as

Chtelet puts it (paraphrased by Zalamea) in his historical

study of the nineteenth century,

in this search for a continuous articulation, include dialectical balances, diagrammatic cuts, screwdrivers, torsions, and articulating

incisions of the successive and the lateral, which is to say, an entire

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series of gestures attentive to movement and which inaugurate dynasties of problems and correspond to a certain fluid electrodynamics of

knowing. (309)

space and time: the epistemological challenge is to structure

and organize such knowledge, to give meaning to the moves

of both space and time in an historical and human sense of

knowledge, and consequently fostering the creation of new

perspectives, including new scientific perspectives.

To sum up, consider that in mathematics, in Zalameas words

the notion of sheaf, in a very subtle manner, combines the analytic

and the synthetic, the local and the global, the discrete and the continuous, the differential and the integral [p. 285-288]. In this way, the

sheafification of the analysis/synthesis polarity generates a new web

of epistemological perspectives. (319)

but processual and methodological, so that the definitions

of mathematics, in reality, define methods; in no way do they

define existent things or simple properties inherent in such

things (330). This outlook mirrors my own stance on the

matter, and it is precisely that which allows us to pose the

problem to what extent such methods are to be preserved

and to what extent they are to be enriched or modified, when

moving to the interface between mathematics and biology

(Longo and Montvil 2014) and to what extent our attempts

of theoretical objectification of the living can still be inscribed

within this framework. The notion of mobility of the base

to which Zalamea refers, is close to the vision of objectivity

and effectiveness of mathematical construction upon which

I insist, insofar as it is the result of a phylogenesis and of a

human history: as the Platonic mobile base suggests, neither

invention nor discovery are absolute; they are always correlative to a given flow of information, be it formal, natural or

cultural (333). Which base changes should be operated in

order to move from the interface between mathematics and

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physics to that between mathematics and biology? From the

epistemological point of view, but also from that of an original

scientific construction, we are not interested in an ontology

of the transcendence of mathematical objects, but rather

in their transcendental constitution, as the phenomenologist would have it that is, their constituting through (and a

transit upon) the praxis of life and knowledge internal to

mathematics and often (an in a particularly fecund manner)

located in the interface with other forms of knowledge.

By posing the question of the relationship between mathematics and biology, therefore, I do not exclude a certain

autonomy of pure mathematics and of its effects on the

world. I want to stress, however, that mathematics has always

nourished itself on new interfaces, on new problems to which

new theoretical answers needed to be formulated. Thus, the

fluid electrodynamics of knowing can take us very far from

the original frictions, and an innovative metaphysics can

further fluidify this exchange just think of the role that the

philosophies of Nicola Cusano and Giordano Bruno, as well

as the practices of the painters of Italian perspective, played

in helping us to think the mathematical infinite and, in general, to conceive of new symbolic constructions of science

and mathematics (see Petitot 2004; Longo 2011b; Angelini

and Lupacchini 2013).

Regarding the relationship between culture, arts and mathematics, and their capacity to interact through the creation of

perspectives and points of view, Zalamea borrows Deleuzian

themes, and quotes at length an art historian, Francastel. On

these themes I want to remember Arasse, a disciple of Francastel and historian of painting, from whose more refined

analysis of the aesthetico-epistemological role of Italian

perspective I suggest we draw precious insights regarding the

play between the (local) detail and (global) sense of a painting, the interaction between painting and knowing artistic

subject (see Arasse 1999, 2009; S. Longo 2014), as well as the

sense of the (mathematical) infinite in renaissance painting.

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The breath of aesthetics permeates mathematical creativity on at least

two levels, as detonator and as regulator. Referring to the artistic imagination, Valry writes in his Cahiers: Imagination (arbitrary construction)

is possible only if its not forced. Its true name is deformation of the

memory of sensation [] We have seen how contemporary mathematics

systematically studies deformations of the representations of concepts.

[] The visions of cohomologies everywhere in Grothendieck [p.

146], of groups everywhere in Zilber [p. 256], or metrics everywhere

in Gromov [p. 259], ultimately answer to a new aesthetic sensibility,

open to contemplating the local variations of (quasi-)objects through

global environments of information transformation. The aesthetic

regulation that allows the invasion of cohomologies, groups or metrics

be calibrated is decisive. (372-3)

When three stones are lying on the ground and a volcano

spits out other two stones, neither the number 3, nor the

number 2, nor the concept of sum are there there are some

stones on the ground, and thats it. These will be five stones

for the practical action of whatever being decides to cut them

apart from their background, as we do (unlike the tick, for

example).

When a lion, in a group of three or four, hears five or six

distinct roars in the distance, it prudently changes course, in

order to avoid an uneven conflict or so the ethologists tell

us. The lion isolates an invariant of praxis, a praxis wherein

memory helps it to compare different active experiences,

from vision, hear and smell. However, the lion does not possess the concept of number, it merely builds but this itself

is no mean feat an invariant of action.

When we make the difficult, and very human, gesture of

an open hand with five outstretched fingers symbolizing a

numerical correspondence, and we refer to it in language, we

are giving ourselves the concept, furtther stabilized in writing.

Number is not already inscribed in the world, not even in

the discrete material of the stones on the ground, not before

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they are isolated from their background pragmatically as

many animals know how to, as well as in mythical-theoretical

manner, through language, as we have learned how to.

Number is not to be located in the biological rhythms that

regulate the time of the living either (Chaline 1999; Longo and

Montvil 2014). What is however interesting is the association

that Brouwer makes between the construction of the concept

of number and the two-ness of temporal discreteness: that

moment which passes by and becomes another (Brouwer 1975)

in the discrete succession of a musical rhythm, the rhythm of

the living, a proposal that evokes the Pythagorean intuition of

number and music. This picture is incomplete though: only a

plurality of active experiences permits the constitution of an

invariant, of that which does not change in the transformation

of one experience into another. The rhythm that organizes

time into the discrete, the small counting (the comparing

and counting of small quantities) which we share with many

animals (see Dehaene 1998), the spatial ordering of different

objects, together with the sense of movement associated with

order (Berthoz 1997) all of these precede and contribute to

the constitution of the (practical and conceptual) invariant,

being different active experiences. The passage, the transit,

the transformation of one into the other are necessary in

order to produce the invariant. All Pythagoreanism, holding number as intrinsic in the world, is misplaced: a brain,

embedded in its preferred ecosystem the body of a human,

historical and dialogical being is needed, along with a plurality of praxis from which to distill an invariant in memory

and then produce (in language) number, in order to stabilize

a concept resulting from a practical invariance with a long

evolutionary history.

Such constituted invariance comes into play even more

when it comes to analyzing processes and dynamics, where

one needs to remember that in physics and, a fortiori, in biology there is nothing but dynamics. We need then to measure

this or that observable pertinent of the selected process, a

theoretical proposal, also fixing a moment of measure, and

decide a beginning and an end of the process a far more

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complex act than that of counting five stones. So measure

necessarily is, because of physical principles, an interval.

Thermic and gravitational fluctuations, as well as quantum

non-commutativity, do not allow us to associate a number

with their dynamics and with the pertinent observables,

but only approximations, changeable intervals. There is no

intrinsic number in no physical process: it is we, through the

difficult gesture of measurement, who associate numbers with

certain dynamics, as couples, extremes of rational intervals, as

concepts and as writing, constructed in language. And then,

with an eminently mathematical passage to the limit, one

which took 2.500 years to be achieved in relative completeness, we have proposed numbers without jumps nor gaps,

the Cantorian continuum, one of many possible continua

where the intervals of measure could converge.

The mediation or interface between mathematics and

the world requires the selection of a frame of reference and

measurement, the production of a number which is not in

the world but which must be extracted or proposed in order

to organize the world. In some cases a structure, a geometry,

can organize the world without numbers, so to speak. Thats

precisely what happened in the various facets of the geometrization of physics, of which I spoke above from Riemann

to Poincar and Einstein, from Weyl to Connes structures

that were somehow derived, as I said, from the problem of

measurement (ruler and compass, rigid body, Heisenbergs

non commutative algebras). This method can also be found,

for example, in the symplectic geometrization of the visual

cortex (see Petitot 2008; Citti and Sarti 2013). But like the

others, even this organizational proposal, a proposal of intelligibility that justifies the co-constitution of Gestalt with

and within the world, must then allow us to analyze fluxes, to

study functionalities and the dynamics of vision, analogously

to physical processes. And so geometry too requires numerical measure, with all the characteristics I mentioned, as does

every access to the structures of geometrized physics with

its difficulties and limits: classical, relativistic and quantum

(and in this case, biological).

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The flat (unidimensional) computationalists who see

algorithms and numerical calculi as coinciding with the world

should first reply to the provocative question I addressed to

the Pythagoreans, (see Longo and Paul 2010 for a formulation

of it) since they seem not to care about the issue of whether

the fundamental constants of physics are computable real

numbers. How unfortunate that Plancks h is not a whole

number, with G and c whole multiples of it! Is that God

playing tricks on us? And these constants (approximated

invariants of measure and theory) are present in all the significant equations, those that define the alleged computable

functions of physical processes. We also suggested to fix h

= 1, a legitimate move, modulo some transformation in the

metric of energy or time, but then the computationalists are

not able to compute G or c as exact real numbers, stuck, like

everyone else, in the interval of the new measure. If I were to

go out on a limb, I would bet that the fundamental constants

are random real numbers la Martin-Lf (see Calude 2002),

that is, strongly uncomputable real numbers, since they have

a Lebesgue measure of 1 (probability 1) in every interval of

the reals. It should be said that randomness, for real numbers, is a notion that has a meaning only to the infinite limit:

these incomputable reals are therefore an asymptotic jeu de

hazard, an infinitary dice game, available to God alone and

this capable of convincing even Einstein.

I defined the partisans of the computational world as

unidimensional, since the question of dimension is at the

heart of their flattening of knowledge. A first way of being in

the world and of constructing the intelligibility of the world

with other disciplines, indeed, is to appreciate its dimensionality, in the entire semantic richness of the word. To

begin with, it should be observed that everything changes,

in biology but also in physics, with the Cartesian dimension. From Poissons equations of heat, a standout case, to

all physical and biological processes, the spatial dimension

within which a process is analyzed is fundamental: its fixing

precedes every theoretical analysis it functions as its condition of possibility, we should say with Kant. In general, the

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choice of a Category or of a Topos and their embedding in a

relative universe of Categories, with transits, functors, and

natural transformations to move from one to the other, is

a fundamental theoretical passage.

Consider the poverty, in speaking about the world, of a

Category, that of Sets, as an alleged ultimate universe of

fundamentals of intelligibility, where the set R of the reals is

isomorphic with Rn: the dimension being irrelevant for the

analysis. Or, even worse, the parody of a universe postulated

by the computationalists: the Category of discrete sets and

computable functions, where N is isomorphic with Nn. These

isomorphisms are essential to the theories in question: in the

first case they allow us to speak of cardinality, in the second

they allow the definition of Universal Machine, one of Turings great ideas, which led to the production of compilers

and operative systems of informatics. Personally, I have found

technical work in this latter Category, and its Types (see Rogers 1967; Barendregt 1984; Girard et al. 1989; Odifreddi 1989,

1999) very interesting, as explained for example in Longo

and Moggi 1984. The second Category is also well correlated

to the first one, once some algebra is added to it (see Longo

1983). Computability and Types, from Church to Girard, are

at the origin of and are still capable of giving mathematical sense to the extraordinary machines we have invented;

we need, however, to always try and offer correspondences

between their category and others of different nature (see

Asperti and Longo 1991).

Yet there are still those who want to analyze the Universe,

the brain, and the organism (the latter being codified by the

discrete structure of DNA) by remaining within N and its

finite, isomorphic powers. Now, the minimal structure one

needs to assume in order to correlate mathematics and the

world is a topological invariance, that of dimension. So, if

we consider, on R, the so-called natural topology, that of

intervals, the structure forbids the absurd isomorphisms

mentioned above: an isomorphism between two topologically

open sets of two different spaces forces the same dimension

of these spaces, which is then a topological invariant. This

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is a simple but beautiful correlation between topology and

physical measure, since natural topology derives from classical physical measure, an interval. This allows us to come back

to what I mentioned above about measure, and how such a

topological invariance has no meaning upon the discrete,

where the access is exact, absolute, and far from any form

of measure and access to physical and biological processes.

When we hope to ground the intelligibility of the world upon

one-dimensional, codifiable mathematical universes, as the

strings of bits that codify an image on a computer screen, we

break the symmetries that make the world intelligible (Longo

and Montvil 2014; 2014a).

Synthetically, one could say that that which is geometric,

and therefore a fortiori categorial, is sensitive to coding:

form, structure, the diagrammatic Gestalt, and organicity are

not invariants of coding, their entire sense is lost by coding,

as instead are information or digital computation, where

independence of coding is their mathematical strength. It

is therefore licit to claim that no physical process computes

(Longo 2009). In order to build one such process, the digital

computer, we had to invent the alphabet, modern logic from

Boole to Frege, Hilbertian formalisms, and Turings and Gdels

formidable codings. We thus individuated a new fundamental

invariant, the notion of computable function, independent

from the formal system. We had to inscribe these calculations,

codify them in a machine with discrete states, and make the

latter stable and insensitive to the codings and fluctuations I

mentioned above, forcing an electromagnetic dynamics into

the discrete, channeling it into an exact interface. So every

process in digital machines can be iterated in an identical

manner, via the implementation, on structures of discrete data,

of term-rewriting systems, i.e. systems of alphabetic writing

and rewriting, the most general form of computability (see

Bezem et al. 2003). This is a massive amount of science and

engineering, which includes the Lambda Calculus, with and

without types (see Barendregt 1984; Barendregt et al. 2013)

to which we gave, with many others, a geometrical significance in adequate Topos, bringing them back to bear upon

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that geometrical organization I insisted upon, far from the

monomaniacal obsession with the computable discrete. This

has been a part of the network of constructed relations, the

synthetic movement of thought which lies at the heart of the

construction of mathematical knowledge, rich in concrete

and historical friction with the world.

To sum up, number and its structures are not already in

the world, and neither is it effective computing, which

is nothing but the formal transformation of the writing of

number: it is expressed in systems of re-writing, transformations of alphanumeric writing, upon which a machine

can operate. Phenomena, in physics in particular, are on the

other hand organized by us through non-arbitrary principles

of intelligibility, among which conservation and symmetry

principles that have dimensions and pose the problem of

access and measure. More precisely, I want to recall how the

conservation of energy and momentum (that are theoretical

symmetries) allow us to write the Hamiltonian, from which

to derive, for example, Newtons equations a specific case

but of great historical importance. From these, indeed, we

can proceed deducing the orbits with Keplerian properties.

This backward reading of history (starting with NoetherWeyls symmetries, and going back to Hamilton, Newton,

and Kepler) makes us appreciate the beauty and unity of this

strongly geometric construction of physico-mathematical

knowledge. This holds even if the planets and the Sun are not

identifiable with a material point mass, even if the phenomenal continuum is not made of Cantorian points (see Weyl

1987 on this topic) and thermic and gravitational fluctuations

make physical trajectories different from mathematical ones,

especially when there are two or more planets (Poincars

problem). The system, then, is chaotic and unpredictable in

modest astronomical time-frames (see Laskar 1994). And

the mathematics of negative results, as Poincar rebutted

to Hilbert, makes such phenomena intelligible. Only on a

computer screen does a trajectory made of pixels even the

chaotic one of a double pendulum follow exactly the path

dictated by the numerical solutions of an equation and can

iterate it exactly a physical nonsense. The symmetries of

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a computational model are different from those of the continuum, as we observed (see Longo and Montvil 2014a).

So the digital trajectory quickly diverges from that of the

mathematical continuum and from the real one. Moreover, restarted with the same digital approximation, on the

same number, it repeats itself again and again, identical to

itself, in secula seculorum, something that never happens in

physics and even less in biology, a science of radically nonreversible and non-iterable onto-phylogenetic trajectories,

cascades of changes of symmetry: a science of correlated

variations (Darwin).

Towards Biology: Problems and Conjectures

1- Variation, Continuum

I already talked at some length of the revolutionary role, in

contemporary mathematics, of sheaves and pre-sheaves. These

allow, in particular, for the construction of a new outlook on

variation, on the continuum and on the relation between local

and global. It is thus possible to break free of the dictatorship

of a continuum qua set of points and punctual variables

which do not make jumps nor sink into gaps a beautiful

construction we owe to Cantor and Dedekind, one of the

most profound constructions of mathematics, but very far

from the continuum of phenomena. Weyl (1987) has already

explained how absurd it is to consider such a mathematical

universe as congruent with the phenomenal continuum

the temporal continuum in particular, which is certainly

not made of points. It is meaningless, Weyl argued, to isolate

in a point a present moment that is not there anymore (as

Augustine would have it), even if he admits that, at the time,

he was inevitably subordinated to that exact construction of

mathematics. Today, we can do better, even though Cantors

and Dedekinds construction is still profoundly entrenched

into our mathematical imagery, and it is indeed the common sense of every school-educated person. Attempts (that

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of Lawvere-Bell for example, see Bell 1998) to introduce the

Topos-theoretic vision into university educational programs

have had, for now, scarce success.

Perhaps the very general form of variation (or sheafification, as Zalamea puts it) on a continuum not composed of

points (and without enough points, as morphisms of the

terminal object upon the one in question) can fall back upon

the phenomena and help us make intelligible the continuous

variation considered in biology, just as complex numbers

imaginary objects of algebra have helped us to understand

microphysics. I said that variation is (one of) the fundamental

invariant(s) of biology, and that the mesh of biological and

ecosystemic relations channels this variation and forces a

permanent determination of the local by the global (and

vice versa), in a permanent critical transition which, for the

time being, resists a general and efficacious mathematization.

It is not obvious how to apply new instruments such as

Grothendiecks in a theoretical-biological field, and I personally

know of no successful attempt to do so. I have not seen, and I

do not know how to bring about, a passage from set-theoretical

punctuality to the actions of non-commutative monoids

in Grothendieck topoi (2234) as applied to a satisfactory

theory of organisms: it may be a job for a next generation.

The first obstacle, following our approach, is the genericity

of the physico-mathematical object and the specificity of its

trajectories. The objects and the transformations in and on the

Topos have the physico-mathematical character of genericity

and specificity: this is reversed in biology, as we said, with a

duality which represents a major conceptual challenge.

What type of categorial, technical, duality can reflect this

theoretical duality and produce a new outlook on biological

phenomena? I would be wary of shortcuts and of the arrogance

of anyone who would master such a beautiful mathematics:

the living is an extremely hard subject matter, a difficulty of a

different kind than the one faced by the beautiful mathematics we have discussed. We must first appreciate the richness

of the Theory of Evolution, the only great theory in biology,

as recounted by many great contemporary evolutionists to

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observe the complexity of the embryogenesis of a flys leg, or

the possible embryogenetic bifurcations of a zebra-fish in

order to fully understand why the competent and honest

experimental biologist is unable to give an answer to 80%

of the questions that the theorist poses to her when visiting

the lab. This is not the case in physics.

Perhaps another duality can be more easily grasped

through new structures. From Hamilton to Schrdinger we

have become used to understanding energy as an operator

(the Hamiltonian, the Lagrange transformation) and time

as a parameter. I hold that this approach, in biology, should

be inverted: here time is the fundamental operator, constitutive of the biological object by way of its phylogenetic and

ontogenetic history, while energy is nothing but a parameter,

as it indeed appears in scaling and allometric equations (see

Bailly and Longo 2009; Longo and Montvil 2014). If we clear

our mind of the classical schemes in which Hamiltons and

Schrdingers operators and Paulis controversial theorem,

which partially formalizes the distinct physical role of energy

and time, (see Galapon 2002) are given, we can perhaps

begin to see the whole in a new, dual way, as required by the

phenomenality of the living by its historicity, in this case.

Another theoretical path that needs a new outlook in terms

of continuity, density (as the rational numbers in the reals)

and of analysis of the local vs. the global is that of extended

criticality (see Bailly and Longo 2011, Longo and Montvil

2014). Critical Transition Theory, in physics, is an extremely

interesting discipline born within the fold of post-War

quantum mechanics yet further developed also in a classical

form for analyzing phase transitions through the application

of (quite a bit of) mathematics. The dominant framework,

obviously formalized on Cantor-style real numbers, describes

the transition as punctual, and this punctuality is essential

to the methods of Renormalization (see Binney et al. 1992;

Lagus and Lesne 2003). These deal with a cascade of models

which describe changes of scale and of pertinent objects, with

a change of symmetries (both breaking and construction of

new ones) at the punctual limit of the transition, where the

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

local appears imbricated with the global. The most familiar

examples are the formation of a crystal or of a snowflake, the

para-ferromagnetic phase transition, and Isings transition,

all mathematized as punctual transitions.

The criticality of the living, on the other hand, is extended:

it is always in a state of phase transition, in a permanent

reconstruction of its internal symmetries and in correlation with the environment (see Longo and Montvil 2014).

Indeed, in an organism every cellular reproduction has the

characteristics of a critical phase transition, for internal reconstruction and of the surrounding tissue. And within the

cell itself, molecular cascades pass through critical values

which can similarly be seen as phase transitions. The slight

modifications that always follow it are part of adaptive biology, including ageing (the increase in metabolic instability,

oxidative stress). An organism is somewhat like a snowflake

which reconstitutes itself in permanence, partially modifying

its symmetries, jointly to the correlations with the ecosystem.

In short, an organism is not merely a process, a dynamics, but is

always in an (extended) state of critical transition, permanently

reconstituting local and global symmetries. An interval of

criticality can give some idea, as I am trying to convey it, but

the density that would be necessary to describe it cannot be

the point by point density of a segment of Cantors line in

respect to every pertinent parameter or if it is, it is only

so in an inadequate manner. In any case, renormalization

methods cannot be applied, as such, to a classical interval of

criticality. A reasonable objective could be that of replacing

the Cantorian interval with the variation in/of a point-less

(pre)sheaf, thus giving a representation of density adequate

to renormalization, suitably extended.

2 - Measure

I have already discussed the crucial role and the theoretical

and experimental richness of measure in physics, the sole

form of access we have to the world (including perceptual

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Speculations VI

measure), an interface between mathematics and phenomena. In biology the situation is even more complex. In the

first instance, a difference must be drawn between in vitro

and in vivo, a difference which has no meaning in physics.

Moreover, over the last few years we have seen the development of refined techniques of three dimensional cultures:

cells or tissue fragments from an organism are developed in

collagen suspensions from the same organism, giving rise to

matrixes or parts of tissues impossible to observe in traditional

and bidimensional Petri dishes. Thus both observation and

measure are profoundly changed, as if (but not quite as if) we

were somewhere in between the in vivo and the in vitro.

In any case, the duality I examined between generic and

specific, between biology and physics, radically changes the

meaning of a measure. The biological object is not an invariant

either of experience or of a theory, unlike the mathematical

and physical object. It is specific and historical and, to a greater

or lesser degree, individuated. Of course, the individuation

of a monocellular organism or of a single cell in a tissue is

minimal compared to that of a primate. And yet a cellular

culture is prepared, by biologists, with a full awareness of the

history of cells: cells from a given tissue are labelled, and the

descendents are distributed with the utmost care throughout

the world in order to reflect, collectively, on the iterability of

an experiment in reference to the history (i.e. the specificity)

of each cell or tissue. The same goes for lab rats, labelled and

traced along families as offspring of a same couple, so that they

will have a common, or at least known, phylogenetic history.

In an ongoing project, between laboratory experience and

theory, Mael Montvil is working on a theoretical analysis of

what he calls the controlled symmetrization of the biological

object factually practiced in laboratories, in order to deal with

its specificity and to make it as generic as possible. One of

the consequences of biological specificity is that the Gaussian

distribution of a measure does not have the same meaning

that it does in physics. For example in physics, in general,

deviations from or situations marginal to the Gaussian can

be seen as noise and decrease, relatively speaking, with the

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increase of the total number of samples. In biology deviations are specific cases that can have great significance

for (cellular) differentiation and speciation, and increase as

the number of samples grows: enlarging the samples from

one population of cells, or rats (or of humans) to another

may radically change the response (to a therapy, say), a major

experimental and theoretical challenge. Only the control

(the normal cell, or rat, used as control), an unknown notion in physics, can help us understand the significance of a

variation, which is biological variability. And I want to insist

that variability, in biology, is not noise: it is at the origin of

diversity and therefore of the biological resilience of an individual, a population or a species and that this takes place

even in a population with a small number of individuals:

even in a population of a few thousands, individual diversity

contributes to evolutionary stability.

Which mathematical instruments should we use, or create,

starting with contemporary mathematics that is to say, going

beyond mere systems of (at best non-linear) equations, and

statistical methods invented at the end of the 1800s? When

Connes proposed non-commutative geometry he stood on the

shoulders of early 1900s giants. A highly refined theoretical

work then transferred the problem of quantum measure to

Heisenbergs matrix calculus, correlated with Weyls algebras

and Hilberts spatial continua, both used by Schrdinger for

his equation. As in relativity theory, or perhaps even more

so, the problem of measure had produced an imposing

theoretical edifice. This is certainly not the case in biology,

where practically no theory, as far as I know, accompanies or

guides extremely stringent experimental protocols, whose

originality and rigour are truly astounding for the theorist

who happens to visit the laboratory.

In short, I believe that it is necessary to first clarify what

to measure means before being able to imagine a process of

co-construction of mathematics and biology in a way vaguely

comparable to what took place between mathematics and physics in the last four centuries. The physicalist who denies the

existence of a properly biological problem, or the Pythagorean

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Speculations VI

who claims that number is already there, should look

elsewhere. To associate a number with five stones, six roars

or five fingers, i.e. to build an invariant, is a long historical

process. To associate it with a physical or biological process

is a task which lies at the heart of experimental work, and

represents a major theoretical challenge, in biology even

more than in physics.

Conclusions on Zalameas Book

14.3.2. For mathematicians, logical axioms delimit a playground. But

which game are we going to play next?

7.4.1. Desire, and the resistance of the object, are what mathematicians

ordinarily use to distinguish mathematics from logic.

7.5.1. Grothendieck is rather like the Freud of epistemology.

(Lochak , 2015)

of how the immense shadow of Grothendieck dominates

Zalameas book. A French mathematician, the son of internationalist revolutionaries, migrating throughout all political

turmoils in Europe between the Russian revolution of 1905

and the Second World War, Grothendieck comes to France

when twelve years old, while the latter war was raging. He

first lived with his mother, and then in hiding. His life is as

original as his mathematics (see Lochak 2015). Without going

into the mostly dramatic details of the first, it is interesting

to note how Grothendieck is the only one of eleven French

winners of a Field Medal, who have had their university studies in France, to have neither studied nor taught at the ENS

in Paris, yet another touch of originality.

Following Grothendieck, Zalameas book gives priority

to the structures of mathematics, to their transformations

and deformations, and to the construction of meaningful

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Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

invariants. Taking this focus on structures, invariants and

transformations as the way to do philosophy of mathematics

the philosophical sheafication I mentioned above we move

away from set theoretical, logicist and formalist absolutes

(still grounded on the myth of the discrete and the finite

as absolutes) programmatically outside of the world.

We should however add that Grothendiecks work goes

beyond these speculations on symmetries, invariants, and

transformations. He had an exquisitely refined sense of the

purity of a mathematical definition. He was able to avoid,

arguably as no mathematician before him could, every contingency in the structures and proofs he proposed. All his

notions intrinsically encapsulate, so to speak, the maximal

invariance of a concept, to the extent that there is no need to

prove it, by identifying the adequate transformations: they

are intrinsic to the definitions12.

Grothendiecks approach unifies remote constructions in

mathematics, by proposing invariants which are surprisingly

shared by groups, topological spaces, manifolds of different

sorts (differential, geometric ), and by constructing, as

bridging notions, new mathematical structures. It is more

than a unification by generality, as the new objects proposed

have an autonomous, robust and profound mathematical

structuring. This allows to circulate in mathematics and

to propose and transfer common mathematical meaning

to apparently unrelated mathematical constructions. As

Grothendieck observed, sheaves on suitably changing sites

allow the circulation between continuous and discrete structures beyond the the founding aporia of mathematics, to

put it in Thoms terms.

As Zalameas book reminds us with regard to physics, yet

pushing beyond Zalameas arguments, it seems to me that the

12A typical example is the notion of tale topology. It is defined on a

category as a category, whose objects are morphisms on which schemes

act (as morphisms): the topology thus is given in a relational way, which

forces its right level of invariance. The notion of Topos as well is given

in a category-theoretic way: these are sheaves on sites (a small category

with a covering) .

259

Speculations VI

fundation of mathematics must take nourishment from the

dialogue with the theoretical foundations of other disciplines.

Not only in the dimension of historical analysis, but also in

the positive work of scientific creation, where epistemology

becomes entangled with the analysis of the construction of

knowledge. This construction is the result of a protensive

gesture which organizes the world, rich with desire for

(knowledge of) the real and constitutive of the mathematical

object through which it can be made intelligible; a real which

resists and channels mathematical invention, together with

its history. The analysis of this protensive gesture, and of its

historicity, is part of epistemological reflection, qua analysis

of a construction in fieri. The wandering of mathematical

work beyond any relation with the natural sciences is yet an

essential component of this construction, even more so if it

gives rise to new spaces for creation, new correlations and

abstract structures like Set or a new category of pre-sheaves.

The mistake is to take one of these creations and put it back,

as ultimate foundation, as a kind of Cantorian paradise outside

the world. In doing so, one loses the meaning of the whole

edifice, a network of relations of intelligibility, by absurdly

turning it upside down and making it stand on (perhaps

unidimensional) feet of clay. I am not here insisting on the

exigency of fundations as locus of certainty, but rather on

the necessity of the analysis of conceptual and cognitive roots,

of structures of sense as correlations, tracing their constitutive and historical path (broadly construed, as to include its

pre-human dimension). This project is far from pursuing

those unshakable certainties sought by Hilbert in a time

of great non-Euclidean uncertainties: on the contrary, there

is nothing more uncertain than the cognitive foundations of

mathematics as uncertain as any biological or pre-human

dynamics, as uncertain as a physical measure. However,

drawing upon a plurality of correlations of knowledge, an

historical epistemology of the interface between disciplines

construes them as mutually supportive, as epistemological

and epistemic webs: networks of meaning where the meaning of one helps us understand and constitute the other. An

260

Synthetic Philosophy of Mathematics

epistemology, moreover, that helps us discern, in an original,

critical and ever-renewed way, the road to be built ahead,

which is what matters most.

Grothendiecks unifying methodology, within mathematics, based on the construction of new and often complex

deep structures, is also a remarkable example within the

foundational analysis and the practice of other disciplines:

reduction, say, rarely applies, while unification by new and

difficult theories marked the growth of science.13 Science is

not the progressive occupation of the real by known tools, in

a sort of fear of the novelty, but the difficult construction of

new theoretical frames, objects and structures for thought,

conceptual bridges or even enlightening dualities, such the

specificity of the biological vs. the genericity of the inert, with

its major consequences for a close analysis of measurement,

as suggested above.

My analysis has been inevitably superficial and incomplete;

even Zalameas large book is incomplete when it comes to the

richness of contemporary mathematical invention. Zalameas

style, informal and philosophical, may irritate some readers,

due to what could be considered as frequent flights of rhetorical fancy. Personally, I find it an extremely efficacious way to

express the enthusiasm that such mathematical abundance

deserves. As for rigour, when it comes to those fields in which

I can claim some technical competence (Types, Categories

and Topos, Girard, Lawvere) it all seemed to me to be

presented in a coherent and pertinent way, within the limits

imposed by the limited space dedicated to the numerous

themes transversally touched by Zalamea, who demonstrates

an outstanding breadth of knowledge.

I would like, finally, to commend the two associated publishing houses that published this volume: Urbanomic and

Sequence Press. In this as in other publications as for example

13 Newton unified Galilean falling apples and planetary movements, by

inventing brand new mathematics and theories. Similarly, Boltzmann

unified mechanics and thermodynamics at the asymptotic limit of the

ergodic hypothesis and the thermodynamic integral. Connes aims at

the unification of quantum and relativistic fields by a reinvention of

(differential) geometry

261

Speculations VI

the forthcoming English retranslation of Chtelets book (an

extremely hard work as Cavazzini, who recently translated

it into Italian, knows all too well) they certainly seem to

favour the creation of a critical space, by promoting originality, and offering an alternative to debates as well-established

as they are sclerotized in an oscillation between this or that

Scylla and Charybdis, even when the latter approach would

promise immediate success and, therefore, an high Impact

Factor a factor that is having a very negative impact on

science (Longo 2014).

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Fabio Gironi, for his careful and patient translation, and Robin Mackay, who for a long time has

followed, with great acuity, my philosophical speculations.

Andrea Maffei and Olivia Caramello made a competent reading of, and many comments to, a draft of this essay, still highly

incomplete in comparison to the mathematics they master.

I would also like to thank Sara Negri, Sara Campanella and

Sara Franceschelli for their critical observations. Sara (Longo)

has helped me understand the movement from Francastel to

Arasse in the construction of a point of view in art theory,

so close to its construction in the sciences.

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